Winter Games 2020
Spelling Bees, Fallen Orders, Killer Queens, and Wild Hearts.
What are Small Planeteers playing this winter? A little bit of everything, from addictive new word games to beautifully-rendered shoot-em-ups to inspired board game adventures.
The New York Times’ word game is deeply, ridiculously competitive, so it’s perfect for bringing family and friends together. Every day there’s a different set of letters, and every day the number of points required to reach Amazing (or, more importantly, Genius status), is different. That ups the smack talk factor, ie “Have you reached Genius yet?” There’s also a magical Queen Bee status if you find every word on the list. -Joana Kelly
Very, very, very, very addictive. -Lucy Bonner
This online multiplayer + couch co-op game (translation: a fun group game to play when friends are over) is a console port of an arcade game (called Killer Queen). You work together with 3 other players on your team and there are 3 paths to victory — military, economic, and snail. Yup, one of the paths to victory is getting a slow-moving snail across the finish line. It’s a lot of fun and easy to pick up, and the arcade version is beautifully chaotic. -Isar Chang
Very well-designed board game, from stem to stern. in fact, the rulebook is maybe the best one from any game (or anything) ever. A dice-based adventure with a healthy dash of Jules Verne, Crystal Palace (based on an actual building) drops you in the first World’s Fair in London, circa 1851. Players race to create wild, slightly alternate-timeline inventions with the help of characters both fictional and real. -Quinn McHenry
This fast-paced, arcade-style, “pop album” game has trippy, beautiful graphics (and music). The gameplay is easy to pick up but constantly reinvents itself as you play, which is an absolute delight when you see just how creative they get with the format. You can play through in one sitting, so it doesn’t require a huge time suck. Very approachable for those who say they don’t play video games. And Queen Latifah narrates it! -Isar Chang
Set a few years after Episode III, Fallen Order is a bit dark in a good way, giving players a sense of the darkness spreading over the galaxy. The excellent story and the Assassin’s Creed-like gameplay work well together while exploring a variety of worlds. From running on walls to timing force jumps in order to grab pipes or vines from which to swing/climb on … it’s all just incredibly fun. Not to mention the great cinematic score too. -Taylor Plimpton
Just released for iOS, Gladiabots fronts as an arena shoot-em-up, but that’s just a clever ruse to teach you about AI principles. All of your decision-making takes place in the planning phase, where you determine the behaviors of your droids (when to attack, advance, shield) then send them out to see how your strategy works. It’s all frenetic, laser-fueled, anarchic fun. -Matt Brown
This popular board game mashes up some classics like Telephone and Pictionary, so that players around the table go back-and-forth between writing a word or drawing it. The After Dark version ups the raunch factor, but still keeps the gameplay light and fun (though decidedly not appropriate for kids). I had the best time figuring out what people were drawing out/guessing at. It becomes a chaotic mess that we all laugh when the round is over -Tim Rabanal
The hook is pretty good: you’re a magical wolf exploring a post-civilization world that nature has (stunningly) reclaimed. Beautiful design and easygoing pace. Oh, and you can inhabit other animals like birds and fish on your journey, discover lost cities and hidden relics, and have visions of the past … classic magical wolf stuff. -Matt Brown